In Meeting on Zoom, Peninsula Planners Express Desire to Get Back to Work for the Community

by on June 24, 2020 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

Volunteer Board Grapples With How to Fill Vacant Seats

By Geoff Page

It is interesting to see the lengths people are going to today, in their efforts to establish a modicum of normalcy.  The reasons for this are varied.  For many it is a serious worry about money.  For some, who may not have a money worry, it is a chance to get back to making more money.  And some, like many celebrities out there in front of laptops, are starving for attention.

The volunteers on the Peninsula Community Planning Board want to resume their business, which has been on hold since their last meeting in February of this year.  While it may not be the motive for everyone, most of the sitting members expressed the same sentiment, a genuine concern that the work for the community the board normally does was not getting done.

The kick-off effort to restart their work, Thursday, June 18, was an on-line meeting much like the OB Planning Board and the Midway-Pacific Planning Group have held in the past few months.  The PCPB used a popular on-line meeting software called Zoom. The only agenda item was to discuss how to go forward with the PCPB.

The meeting went well.  There were approximately 21 people in attendance, a normal mixture of board members, community members, and government representatives. One Zoom feature allows the meeting coordinator to control everyone’s microphone, which surely could be abused, but is a useful tool in keeping people from talking over each other.

People could be seen on screen raising their hands and the moderator could recognize them one at a time in order.  Having a good moderator is obviously important.  Board member Korla Eaquinta handled this responsibility and the meeting was as orderly, if not more so, than a regular meeting.

There were some drawbacks this reporter experienced attending the meeting.  Each person appears in a small video and the monitor fills up with small video squares.  Everyone can see the participants unless a person turns off their video feed.  The problem was that there is only so much room, even on a large monitor.  It was not possible to see all the attendees.

Another drawback is that people need to possess or, have access to, decent computers and good internet connections.  And, people need to know how to navigate the meeting program.  There surely must be a compilation of goofs on You Tube showing people trying and failing miserably to make it work.

But, it is an honest effort on the PCPB’s part.  This group seems to want to get back to helping.  What some folks fear is that things are being slipped by during this shutdown and that some are taking advantage of the lack of oversight or enforcement of building codes.  This seems to be a legitimate worry considering things the city appears to be fast-tracking during all of this.

The PCPB has some challenges to overcome, in order to restart.  To begin with, the election that is held in March every year was cancelled and there were no meetings in March, April, or May. There are normally five open seats each year but this year there were two additional seats to fill. The former chair and vice chair resigned effective March 31. There is one year left on the former chair’s term and two years left on the former vice chair’s term.

Since the chair and first vice chair were gone, leadership fell to Brad Herrin, the second vice chair.  Herrin conducted the meeting calmly and professionally even during some unfounded criticisms. He began by explaining options he said came from Tait Galloway with the city Planning Department, one of which was to go dark for as long as it took.

Herrin explained that there was a requirement in Council Policy 600-24 that the board have a minimum of 12 members to be certified.  Because there were seven open seats during the March election that were not filled, there are only eight sitting board members now.  The eight represent a bare quorum of the normal 15 members.  All eight would have to attend every meeting as one absence would mean no quorum and no business could be conducted.

This means there were two pressures on the members now, one being a board below the required membership and one being this very tentative quorum.  Herrin suggested a solution, reseating the five board members, who were termed out in March, until the 2021 March election.  This would solve the two problems by bringing the membership to 13 members. It solved another problem in that board members are indemnified by the city but must attend a training session first.  The sessions aren’t being held but the termed-out members had all been through it.

Board member Mark Krencik suggested throwing the seven seats open to anyone who wanted to fill the short terms and appoint seven people. It was expressed that it might not be fair to let just anyone try for a seat when there were people who had showed an interest in being on the board by running for a seat.  There were 10 candidates running for the open seats in March.

Krencik then said reseating the five termed out members would probably make sense and then the remaining two seats could be filled by appointment to get to a full complement of 15 members.  This garnered immediate opposition from board members Mandy Havlik and Eva Schmitt who felt 13 members were enough and no new community members were needed.  For members of a community planning board, this opposition to more community involvement was very strange.  But, it didn’t stop with them.

“Lucky” Morrison, a one-year board member, filling the last year of a vacant seat and who was termed out in March, delivered a criticism that clearly demonstrated he had no knowledge of the planning board by-laws regarding how vacancies on a planning board are filled.  He spoke strongly against it saying it would look like the board was doing something nefarious by appointing members instead of waiting for an election.  It would look like some kind of exclusive club, he said.

Anyone with a smattering of experience with planning boards would know how vacancies are filled if they don’t occur close to a March election.  Morrison claims to have years of experience on the North Park Planning Board but showed he clearly knew nothing about the appointment process.

Simply put, vacancies are filled by candidates applying to the board and being appointed by a board-only vote.  This has happened many times in the years this reporter has observed the PCPB, it was how this reporter was first elected to a seat on the PCPB.  Morrison’s incorrect assessment of the situation received agreement and praise from other board members, sadly also illustrating a lack of knowledge as to how the board works.

Finally, when it seemed no one was going to correct Morrison, Krencik spoke up and explained the by-law provision for appointing members.  It was disappointing to see that only one out of eight sitting members and the five termed out members appeared to have a working knowledge of the planning board rules, or at least was willing to speak up.

It was during the discussion on a motion to reseat the five members when board member Don Sevrens, tried – in this reporter’s opinion – to stir up unnecessary controversy.  Sevrens was the member who sued the city and his fellow PCPB members last year causing a big disruption in the board’s business, not to mention causing anxiety among several members. He is a self-professed “parliamentarian” and he said his reading of the by-laws did not show a provision for the second vice chair to be in charge.  He said that absent by-law language on this they had to rely on Robert’s Rules of Order for guidance.  In Sevren’s expert opinion, this meant that succession fell to the board secretary.

Why he was making such a case now was not clear to anyone in the meeting except maybe Sevrens.  Herrin was only running things because it seemed logical that the second vice chair was there for just such a situation, departure of the chair and first vice chair.  It was interesting that the self-professed “parliamentarian” had nothing to say about the appointment discussion that was taking place. His point about leadership succession, at a time when there were much more pressing matters, rightfully fell on deaf ears.

Then, as if his first faux pas was not enough, Morrison launched into a criticism that he had also leveled at the past chair. Morrison seems to see conspiracies everywhere and criticized Herrin for not be completely open and transparent with everyone during the discussions with the city on how to proceed.  He went on for some minutes criticizing this alleged secrecy on the part of Herrin.

But, his balloon was quickly popped when Korla Eaquinta spoke up and said that Herrin had been very open in the communications with the sitting board members.  She had to remind Morrison that his term ended in March, which was why he was not included in the communications, he was not a board member.  This fact apparently had not occurred to Morrison judging by the look on his face.  Later, when everyone defended Herrin, Morrison went into another long spiel walking back his comments about Herrin, but it was not effective.

In the end, the board voted to reseat the five termed out members, which included both Morrison and Sevrens.  This will bring them to 13 members.  There will be a future discussion about filling the two empty seats once the dissenting board members are educated on the PCPB by-laws and the requirement to fill those seats. That is, assuming of course, that they do actually read the by-laws.

There will be another on-line meeting next month. The board will elect new officers at that time to get back to a full complement of officers. It will be advertised on the board website pcpb.net, and possible elsewhere.  The PCPB’s normal monthly meetings take place on the third Thursday of every month starting at 6:00 p.m.

Unfortunately, it appears that people will need good computers, a good internet connection, and an understanding of how everything works, in order to attend.  That is a factor that will limit public participation.  The PCPB normally meets in the Point Loma library in a large room.  It does seem possible to space out board members sufficiently to satisfy the distancing guideline and, combined with masks, even more so.  The audience is not usually very large so it seems the same could be applied there. Hopefully, the PCPB will consider this alternative to resuming business.

 

 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Eva Schmitt June 24, 2020 at 1:50 pm

Dear Mr. Page,
I respectfully ask that you revise your article to accurately reflect my position re board member appointments as expressed during the last PCPB meeting. I agreed with Mark Krencik that the remaining 2 seats (after reappointing the 5 termed-out board members) should be filled by community members with preference given to those community members who previously volunteered their time. Your article states the opposite of my expressed position and is not an accurate reflection of events as they occurred.
Thank you!

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Avatar Geoff Page June 24, 2020 at 3:58 pm

Ms. Schmitt,

The key part of your comment is this ” should be filled by community members with preference given to those community members who previously volunteered their time.” What this meant, as it would not be clear to people who are not intimately familiar with the PCPB, is that you want to limit the appointments to the pool of people who were candidates in the March election. Mark Krencik did not make that distinction. There is nothing in the by-laws that would permit such a limitation, vacancies are open to any community member who wants to run. If you want to read the by-laws and provide the language that corrects what I have said, please do so.

You also said ” community members who previously volunteered their time.” If by that you meant they were running for a seat, that is not much of an effort. If you meant community members who have volunteered their time working with and for the PCPB, that would be a much larger pool of people.

So, if there is a clarification to your position it would be that the two vacancies be filled but the only candidates allowed to try for those seats would be the seven people who were running in the March election. While that may not be as limiting as not filling the seats at all, it is still unnecessarily limiting participation by the community at large.

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Avatar Eva Schmitt June 24, 2020 at 4:25 pm

Mr. Page,

I am not asking you to interpret what I clearly stated during the meeting but to report accurately what I vocalized. I appreciate your attendance and I know that Zoom meetings certainly don’t present the same venue for real time clarification of points being made. That being said, I believe you are incorrectly reporting what occurred and I ask you to revise your article. I will clarify my position again: I was in favor of filling the remaining 2 seats with community members who previously served as community committee members on the board (rather than leaving these seats vacant)

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page June 24, 2020 at 5:02 pm

Ms. Schmitt,

I was not interpreting what you said in the meeting. I quoted what was in your comment on this article. You just reiterated it with an additional qualification when you wrote “I was in favor of filling the remaining 2 seats with community members who previously served as community committee members on the board (rather than leaving these seats vacant).”

Now, you have further limited participation to people who have served as community members on PCPB subcommittees. That is limiting community participation in the process to fill vacancies and there is nothing in the by-laws to support that position. Why limit participation in any way?

I have been attending PCPB meetings for many years and have seen many members elected who never even attended a board meeting, much less volunteered on a subcommittee. I would be curious to know your own volunteer experience with the PCPB because you were a new face to me when you ran for a seat. The point is, the planning board should be wide open to whoever qualifies and wants to run for a seat. placing any other limitations runs counter to the purpose of the organization.

I believe you have had the opportunity that the comment section of the OB Rag provides to publicly disagree with what I wrote.

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Avatar Mandy Havlik June 25, 2020 at 12:06 pm

Mr. Page your interpretation of the June 18th, 2020 meeting is remarkably interesting. I am questioning what meeting you attended and your interaction with Mrs. Schmitt is unconscionable. Mrs. Schmitt actually advocated for filling the two vacancies and asked if they should or should not come out of the pool of applicants who had already gone through the vetting process determining their eligibility to become members of the board or should be filled with individuals who had previous board experience. At no time did she or I advocate for excluding community members. Your responses to her comments appear to me that you are projecting your interpretation of the meeting onto her.
Additionally, several male members of the board and community were against filling the two vacancies. most notably Mr. Cameron Havlik and Mr. David Dick who concurred with his comments that if the vacancies were filled it would give an unfair advantage to the field of candidates for the next election.
Your assumption that only 1 of 8 members of the board was competently aware of the PCPB by laws is not appreciated. First in accordance with the PCPB bylaws, the board has 120 days following the date of the determination of the vacancy. Since Mr. Goldman and Mr. Deschenes resignation were effective March 19th, 2020, the board has until July to fill any vacancies. However again in accordance with the bylaws if the board does not fill the vacancies and maintains a minimum of 12 active members the vacancies can be filled at the next community election, article IV, Section 3 refers.
I highly encourage anyone who reads your article to take the time to go the PCPB website and read the draft minutes to get a more accurate portrayal of what took place at the June 18th, 2020 meeting.

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Avatar Geoff Page June 25, 2020 at 3:58 pm

Ms. Havlik,

So far, I have heard from three people who attended the meeting. Two of them are two I mentioned in the article, you and Ms. Schmitt, who do not agree with what I wrote because, I assume, it casts an unfavorable light. The third person liked the story and had no objections. I have heard from no one else.

You wrote that Ms. Schmitt “asked if they should or should not come out of the pool of applicants who had already gone through the vetting process determining their eligibility to become members of the board or should be filled with individuals who had previous board experience.” Ms.Schmitt has already spoken for herself. The vetting process only takes minutes, people just have to provide proof of age, if they live in the community, or if they own property in the Peninsula, or if they own a business in the community. I did not hear anyone mention that, but even if they had, it is clearly not an obstacle to a new community member wanting to run, having been “vetted” is no advantage whatsoever.

Ms. Schmitt said “should be filled by community members with preference given to those community members who previously volunteered their time” she did not say what you’ve said here. It was clear there was a desire to limit the choices to the former candidates or no one at all.

You wrote “At no time did she or I advocate for excluding community members.” That is not true, you were adamant that the board could operate with 13 members and said you saw no need to fill the two seats. I have a very clear memory of that.

You mentioned your husband and David Dick. I did not focus on either of them, I focused on what the sitting board members had to say because they were the ones who would be deciding what would happen. Neither one is a board member, although David became one of the reseated members.

You wrote “Your assumption that only 1 of 8 members of the board was competently aware of the PCPB by laws is not appreciated.” It was not an assumption, no one but Mark Krencik spoke up. If your only refutation of what I wrote is that it “is not appreciated,” I can’t be concerned. The facts are what they are.

It is good to see you decided to read the by-laws. I would suggest you reread the vacancy section. It says the board may operate with 12 members if it is unable to fill the seats. It is not a choice, the board is obligated to make every effort to fill those vacancies. The PCPB has never had a problem filling vacant seats, if you had some past experience with the board you would know that.

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Avatar Mandy Havlik June 25, 2020 at 5:03 pm

Due to my past experience with the board, I agree that the PCPB has no issues filling vacancies. However, you miss quoted article IV section 3. For the benefit of the readers here is the section from the PCPB bylaws which can be found on the PCPB’s website.

“When the Peninsula Community Planning Board is unable to fill a vacancy within 120 days, as specified above, and the planning board has more than twelve members, a search for a new member should continue, however either the seat may remain vacant until the next planning board election, or these bylaws may be amended to permit decreased membership to a minimum of 12 members. If a vacancy remains for more than 60 days from the time a vacancy is declared, and there are less than 12 elected planning board members in good standing, the planning board shall report in writing the efforts made to fill the vacancy to the City. If, after 60 additional days, the planning board membership has not reached 12 members, the planning board will be deemed inactive until it has attained at least 12 members in good standing.”
The key part of Article IV section 3 is that the seat may stay vacant until the next planning board election. The only real issue occurs when the board drops below 12 active members because the city could deem the board inactive which would rob the community of an important venue to address issues with the city.

Additionally, the search “should” continue. The definition of should from the Oxford dictionary 2. used to indicate what is probable. Therefor it is not a requirement but something that is probable. Had it been a requirement the verbs shall or will would have been used. Either way I am sure that this issue will be discussed at length at the next PCPB meeting in July.

On a personal note, I do not appreciate you telling me what I do or do not know or what I have or have not read. In my opinion this is another example of a man telling a woman what she does or does not know.

Reply

Avatar Geoff Page June 25, 2020 at 5:25 pm

I did not “miss quote” the by-laws, I did not quote them at all. And. if you are going to quote the by-laws for everyone, do it completely instead of selectively. Here is what was before what you quoted:

“Vacancies that may occur on the Peninsula Community Planning Board should be
filled not later than 120 days following the date of the determination of the
vacancy. The term of office of any member filling a vacancy shall be for the
balance of the vacated term.

The Peninsula Community Planning Board shall move to fill vacancies at the
time the vacancies are declared. Vacancies will have appropriate noticing in
the local paper and on the PCPB website. Applicants for replacement seats
will be subject to same qualification requirements as applicants for General
Elections. Vacancies shall be filled by a vote cast by the seated Planning
Board members. Such vote shall be in writing and the vote cast by each Board
Member to select a replacement for a vacant seat will not be disclosed until the
results of the election are announced. The results of the election for the
replacement seat should be announced at the same meeting as that in which the
vote was taken. Those seated shall fill the remaining term of the member they
are replacing.”

The board is obligated to fill the vacancies, the language you cited only matters if this proves to be impossible.

Be careful when parsing words. “Should” is the past tense of shall. You did not provide the complete definition, which was “probable or expected.” And, the prominent definition is that it is used to express an obligation or a duty. Filling vacancies is a requirement as in “shall move to fill vacancies at the time the vacancies are declared.” There’s the “shall” you said was needed but you did not quote that part. That section is full of shall and will.

As for your final comment about a man telling a woman what she does or does not know, that is a red herring. When your arguments are weak, resorting to a personal attack just makes you look like you are flailing. Ask anyone on the PCPB past and present or anyone who has read what I write in The Rag and they will tell you I do not discriminate between men and women in what I have to say, it is of no moment to me.

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